Introducing Ron Foster
Ron Foster has written over 50 prepper-themed books. His prolific output includes both fiction and nonfiction works. Some of his most popular publications are Old Farts Survival Guide, The Rural Ranger: A Suburban and Urban Survival Manual & Field Guide of Traps and Snares for Food and Survival, and The Ridiculously Simple Survival Book. In extensively contributing to the prepper genre, Ron draws from his diverse background. He was a gemologist, investment banker, Army soldier, and Airforce airman. Ron has learned countless lessons about preparedness over the years. He generously shared many of his learnings with me during our interview. Below is the transcript of my interview with Ron Foster:
What Got Ron Foster Interested in Prepping?
Bob: You’ve lived many lives. What ultimately got you interested in prepping and survival? How did that interest lead you to become one of the more notable authors of prepper-themed books?
Ron Foster: I have always been interested in prepping in one form or another from the Boy Scouts on. The back to the land movement was in full swing when I was in high school. When planning my future, I found what I yearned for most was a small farmstead of my own. Self-sufficiency and a simple life appealed to me when transitioning from the hippie era and I knew it doesn’t require a lot of cash to just get by if you do it right. That dream of owning some acreage and a little house got me involved in one scheme or another to make some money working for myself as best I could by creating many of my own jobs. Growing up, I read a lot of our great frontiersmen and mountain men and was always fascinated with their skills in finding game. The books, however, never elaborated on those forgotten talents much, so I sought out other books more related to wood craft. I had a couple great scout masters who had been to military survival schools and after being introduced to a survival tip or trick or two, I was hooked!
These were the days when kids played outside. I would leave out early mornings and come in just before dark after returning from one adventure or another exploring the woods on many a military base across the several states that I grew in before I finally settled in Alabama. I live not far from the hurricane prone Gulf Coast and grew up with that threat of danger. Also, I responded to many a hurricane or flood when I was in the National Guard. I learned a lot about people and preparedness at that time and I try to stress to fellow preppers that people are normally at their most neighborly after a storm and are nothing like the crazed starving looter types the hyped-up media portrayed in the Katrina aftermath. It’s this type of profit motivated disaster sensationalism by the fake news that creates many of the mad max fantasies the gun preppers have.
I tell them that instead of thinking about whether they are going to have to shoot their neighbor over that last can of wheat he is hoarding, think instead about how many people in the community it’s going to take to plant that wheat and make a new crop to feed everyone while trying to rebuild society. Unfortunately, this holistic message that I portray in books is not as popular as the images of bands of preppers fighting off marauders and starving hordes with mountains of ammo that other authors in my genre seem to dwell upon.
In the over 65 books I have written, my heroes have not once had to shoot someone. Although I do talk about the potential need to do so in a SHTF situation, my readers learn more important things like how to meet armed hunters in the woods and how to hunt and barter with them another day. All my books teach survival skills and I don’t think I have repeated a tip or trick in my fiction books more than once or twice. My hallmark is to share something new in an entertaining, enlightening, and memorable way for use in a grid down situation. When someone asks in the Survivalist forums for a good fiction book that teaches survival skills, my name usually comes up first, as I basically started the style of writing that many new authors try to copy today. I don’t begrudge them for doing it unless they blatantly borrow from my books, but it does get tiresome.
To differentiate my works from theirs, I coined the term “Southern Prepper Fiction” because mine are written with the wit and humor of the south and the storylines are set there too. You know you’re getting a fun story usually suitable for all ages and this fact appeals to many as a new genre of choice to follow.
How Ron Started Writing both Fiction and Nonfiction Books
Bob: You of course write both fiction and nonfiction books. It’s no small feat to switch between the two. Did your interest in prepping inspire you to explore your creative side and write fiction first? Or did you instead begin writing educational material? What led you to expand outside just one genre?
Ron Foster: I started writing my first nonfiction book The Rural Ranger as the Y2k panic was going on and the preparedness crowd was building up. I wanted to write down a bunch of the wood lore I learned over the years before I forgot it and share this knowledge with another generation less exposed than I was to the outdoors.
About 10 years later, after I went to college, I wrote the first fiction book of the classic original Prepper Trilogy called Preppers Road March. The series was wildly successful due in part to my having many YouTube channel friends. The book came out about a month after the all-time favorite One Second After and during this time only about four authors were listed in Amazon search doing prepper fiction and none of the Kindle Select or Amazon paperback publishing was going on. I have been doing this ever since and it is basically my only form of income, but highly reduced from my heyday as thousands started writing and competing in this genre. All authors lost 70% of income when Kindle select came out.
I basically developed my style of writing survival tips and tricks in the trilogy because after seeing the government spend millions on telling people to build a 72 hour kit, nobody was doing it. 70% of the Emergency Managers in a nationwide poll didn’t have one themselves! 2012 was a year away and although some people knew what an EMP was from the acclaimed William Forstchen book, nobody was familiar with solar storms. That was my concern in prepping for that momentous date. I was the first to write about this subject in a fiction book and bring awareness to the community. I can’t tell you how many thousands of people have used it to get others prepping and it took the government two years to say we only missed catastrophe from a solar flare by a few days after that year had passed.
This affirmation brought me new readers and a bunch of folks yelling to the rafters “Dang, Ron was right!” I’m currently in my home I call Prepper Shack and am writing new books and preparing for new disasters. Often, the rural two-bedroom home on the end of a former dirt road is a setting in my books. It’s getting its mortgage paid with my meanderings and is where I will likely die at someday. In a variety of my writings, I live the lifestyle and share my permaculturing and gardening tips. I even told everyone how to get their own small bit of cheap retirement or preparedness in a book I call The Possum Prepper Guide, which I think a lot of the baby boomers need to heed in this uncertain economic time.
I wrote a kids Prepper Book called Billy’s Outdoor Survival Adventure in hopes of breaking in to that market, but it didn’t fly well. I noticed Amazon had a contest going on that offered a publishing contract. Seeing fantasy sold well, I wrote The Water Witch and made it to the finals, but no contract. I still need to write Water Wizard one day and have my cover, but haven’t found time yet. I can basically write in any genre if I have a mind to.
Maybe I will get a new following in this genre, lol. I am running out of survival tips and tricks after so many books and I really enjoy telling fantasy stories, but my paycheck comes from prepper fiction. I’ve managed to keep reinventing myself or solving new disaster preparedness problems thus far!
I have one book on an ARkStorm that needs expanding or a whole series because this is an unknown true event that is likely to happen soon, in my opinion. It might be in the near future somewhere after I get done with pandemic type literature and herbalism.
Urban vs. Rural Prepping
Bob: There are major differences between urban and rural prepping. That said, you’ve written about both. Do you believe there are general ways in which people can prep irrespective of location, or do you think preps should really be tailored to your geographic setting?
Ron Foster: Great Question! This is one of my favorite subjects to delve into and what shocks most newbie preppers is that most haven’t evolved towards the homesteader lifestyle that many of the old hands in the prepper community seem to be drifting towards. Far too much is written about “Bug Out Bags,” that sneaky pocket emptying prepper virus we all have gotten at one time or another that requires we fill them to the brim with the latest and greatest gadgets hoping these will miraculously help us survive longer than someone else.
I am often quoted saying “Prepare To Lose Everything But Your Mind.” Your mind is your best survival tool. Invest in it instead of “stuff.” This is a mainstay of my teachings. If you can’t envision yourself surviving for an extended period of time in your own backyard, you’re not going to survive in the woods either. Know what it takes to produce food in a suburban home’s backyard as well as off in the wilds or on the water.
In a couple of my books, I explain if you don’t know how to catch a bird, you are going to be reduced to eating what birds eat: grubs and worms. I ain’t doing that! A lot of people don’t realize the suburbs and the cities hold more game than the country. A worldwide phenomenon is being seen now as animals are coming out to enjoy where man once tromped as everyone stays in their homes hiding from the cerveza bug. The animals have always been there. You just didn’t see them during the daylight hours much.
Now having said that, general survival knowledge will serve you everywhere. Specific geographic knowledge and tools will serve you greatly where you need to be thinking of hunkering down at. Knowing the seasonal climate, flora, and fauna where you plan to ride out a disaster is of the utmost importance if you expect to not just survive, but thrive.
Don’t depend on that can of survival seeds you got stashed away. I talk about this in depth in my book Bug Out Gardening and point out that seeds suited for one location might not be as suitable for another. I also explain what to do for fertilizer when the big box stores are all closed. Grow a garden now while the electricity and the water is still running and gain experience. Go fishing and use a real rod and reel. Those nifty survival fishing kits are nice. I teach in my Old Farts Survival Guide how I can catch a fish on a twig with some of the thread from my underwear for line, but why would I do that if I had good tested gear that I was familiar with and that’s much better suited for the task?
Harvesting the inner wires from unused electrical cords with a $2.00 pair of wire strippers for snares beats the hell out of using a $150 Bowie knife for the same task. A paring knife from your kitchen drawer is better suited to cleaning a squirrel than that big Rambo knife you just had to have.
My Daisy 880 pellet gun is better than an AR for small game. The list goes on and on. A full setup of survival gear doesn’t even approach what a lot of people spend on ammo for their battle rifle. Ask yourself this: Are you preparing for war, or are you preparing to survive? A bunch of folks with too much ammo and not enough food are my worst nightmare! Now, if you act like one of the characters in my books that has a good knowledge of trapping, both primitive and modern, you will have all kinds of folks looking out for you because you are the best resource around for survival. Knowledge can save your butt in more ways than I can even explain here and it takes minimal “stuff.”
I wrote a book called The Apocalyptic Apothecary quite a bit before this corona virus thing. In it, I tell how herbalism and wisdom are used to develop formulas for treating an unknown disease in a SHTF situation. My latest trilogy, Two Old Men Too Old To Die explores the premise that medical wisdom is not just a necessity of life but can also help to barter in a disastrous situation. I also point out how gaining good will in such a situation is a rarity that can be a life saver.
Ron’s Thoughts on Disaster
Bob: Given the current state of our country, I can’t avoid the topic of the coronavirus pandemic. How prepared for a pandemic do you think our population was? What do you think we should learn having experienced this crisis?
Ron Foster: America’s general population wasn’t prepared physically or mentally for much of the fear and hype the mainstream media was chomping at the bit to get out. Despite the anguish and death, it all has a silver lining: it’s practice to prepare for much worse. We ain’t out of this yet by a long shot, we got a second and third wave of this virus and a whole new economy to contend with. This was SHTF lite and it showed us the many shortcomings in our politicians, our personal preps, relationships, the fragility of our system, etc. Mostly, it taught us a lot about ourselves, our abilities to cope, and how other people interact when faced with a quandary. It also will show us what physically distancing one’s self no matter the number of internet friends will do to one’s psyche.
Bob: The coronavirus crisis isn’t the only disaster you’ve experienced in your lifetime. It may not be the last. What crises do you prepare for the most? What do you do to prepare?
Ron Foster: I prepare for my own personal economic collapse, which is the most pressing or likely thing, as well as anything short of a zombie apocalypse (I hate the term). I prepare to have food, water, shelter, and a means to protect myself. I also always have a plan. You can put me on an empty street corner and I will work on owning it!
I simplify more and more. You might say, I go backwards more than forwards, as I distaste that technology becomes outdated so quickly, increasingly more expensive, and comes with a new learning curve. Ha! Sometimes, I feel like I am as outdated as a stage coach maker as I try hang on to the old and struggle to cope with the new. However, grid down, I am your go-to guy of a bygone era. I work smarter, not harder. I like things I can plant once and benefit from for a lifetime. I’m getting old and someday won’t be able to do as much physical hard labor, so I want to get the heavy lifting done while I am young, lol.
Ron’s Advice to Younger Generations
Bob: With age comes wisdom. You mention in the Old Farts Survival Guide, “increased resilience, which was once common and expected is now being lost.” I share that same sentiment. What lesson would you offer the millenial and i-gen generations to help them become more resilient?
Ron Foster: Well, they all got a nice dose of reality and their own SHTF scenario to deal with. Lessons learned now should make it easier unless mistakes are repeated. Try to buy yourself a little place now while prices are cheap. Take out a 15 year mortgage and thank me the rest of your lives as your investment pays off. Retire earlier and enjoy life. I say you’re not a man or woman if you don’t have a little piece of land to call your own. You will never face the awful specter of being homeless. Also, it’s a great feeling to be able to say “get off my property” if warranted and with work, you can feed yourself and not be beholden to anyone.
Bob: The younger generations are going to have to pay off the debt issued to help the population recover from the coronavirus crisis. You’ve written about a pandemic in A Pox Upon Us. While the nature of the pandemic is different with the coronavirus, you’ve still proven yourself knowledgeable about the topic. What type of advice do you think would help younger generations ease the financial burden they’re now responsible for?
Ron Foster: I also wrote Driving towards Disaster, which is a book about a major pandemic occurring during a hurricane. We may yet see such a scenario play out, since we are just starting the storm season on the Gulf Coast. The focus is on rebuilding and repurposing and like many of my books, deals with alternate economies. I think we are going back to the gold standard or something like it shortly as the Federal Reserve (which is about as Federal as Federal Express) has now been absorbed by the treasury. The Rothchild’s and central banks are out and going to bear a lot of this pandemic debt. This will cause their demise. We will then be out of this failing debt system economy we have now. Truly a great era to be alive in and watch the show! Buy some food and prep. Prep to live. Don’t live to prep, though. That’s buying insurance for the rainy day. It might pay off; I see storms on the horizon!
Ron’s Collaborators and Readers
Bob: You’re an active voice within the prepper community and have undoubtedly engaged in numerous collaborations over the years. Do you have any mentors or folks you work with on a recurring basis? You and I discussed the National Self Reliance Project. What other community collaborations have you been a part of?
Ron Foster: I network constantly and try to boost every one up that is spreading the preparedness message. I avoid groups that won’t let me put an occasional book link out due to their “rules” on advertising. I’d done a lot with Prepper Broadcasting Network. I will soon be on the YouTube channel “Around the Cabin.” We’ll all rethink and rework our relationships in these changing times of marketing and prepping community messages.
Bob: I perused the books in your Amazon Store and read many of the comments your readers posted. They love you. What type of relationship do you have with your readers? Do you make efforts to meet with them and solicit their feedback?
Ron Foster: I love my fans, readers and get togethers with my fellow preppers. I’ve sponsored big campouts like “Preppers on the Beach,” “The come as you are apocalypse,” etc. I used to be a regular participant in “Prepper Stock”. My style of event is different. No classes, do what you want, have a drink around the campfire and just mingle with like-minded people. However, these things are hard to organize and interest has waned along with people’s changing circumstances. So, I look forward to whoever picks up the torch and I will attend theirs. I am fantastic at getting corporate supporters to donate prizes for events. Most people know this, so we will see what’s next. I’m easily accessible on Facebook and Twitter and love to chat. I am also a featured guest on many internet radio shows and enjoy when people call in.
Following Publications by Ron Foster
Bob: Aside from your Amazon page, how can readers stay up to date with your latest publications and posts? Are you currently working on anything that you want my readers to know about?
Ron Foster: Ronfoster.Webs.com is my personal page, but it’s not updated often. Southern Prepper Fiction Author Ron Foster is my group on Facebook. Generally speaking, I get a book out every 90-120 days or so click ‘follow’ on Amazon for updates.
Bob: Ron, I really appreciate you take the time to speak with me. You live an incredible life. I’m looking forward to your next project. Thank you.
Ron Foster: Thank you so much for reaching out to me and allowing me to be part of the great project you have going. I truly enjoyed answering your well thought out questions and thank you for your time and consideration.
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